Broadway shows in New York, one of the final holdouts in requiring face masks for those in attendance, will no longer have an industry-wide mask mandate in place, The Broadway League announced. Beginning July 1, the owners and operators of all 41 Broadway theaters in New York will make masks optional – though masks are still encouraged.
“Millions of people enjoyed the unique magic of Broadway by watching the 75th Tony Award Ceremony recently,” says Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin. “Millions more have experienced Broadway LIVE in theatres in New York City and throughout the U.S., since we reopened last fall. We’re thrilled to welcome even more of our passionate fans back to Broadway in the exciting 22-23 season that has just begun.”
Masking protocols for August and beyond will be evaluated on a month-to-month basis going forward, meaning that the industry-wide mandate could return if COVID-19 numbers get worse. Face masks have been required for all attending Broadway shows since last summer’s reopening, which brought the first shows back to New York stages since March of 2020. Proof of vaccination was also required for all in attendance over age five through the end of April 2022.
Not all involved in the industry are pleased with the mask shift, and some productions have already announced plans to continue requiring masks for those in attendance. Actors’ Equity – the union for Broadway performers – told Deadline that it had not been consulted in the decision, and that The Broadway League had unilaterally chosen to end the mandate on its own.
Although Equity, which represents actors and stage managers in the theater, did not publicly respond to the League’s announcement, a letter sent to its members Wednesday indicates that unions “were only given advance notice a couple of hours before the [League’s] announcement,” and that input from the union was not sought by the producers and owners in setting the mask optional policy.
In response, St. Martin defended the decision, which she said was made in consultation with health and safety experts the league has been working with throughout the pandemic and reopening.
“Since the pandemic began, the League has been working closely with our union colleagues along with our respective health and safety experts to collaborate on ensuring that we are providing the best protocols for the safety for our cast, crew and the audience. These current protocols reflect the agreements reached with our bargaining partners including an agreement that we do not require our audiences to wear masks in our theaters. The decision announced regarding audience masking is, accordingly, entirely consistent with our fully negotiated safety protocols. We are proud of the work we have done together with our unions to create our industry-leading health and safety protocols.”
American Buffalo at the Circle in the Square Theatre will require masks through its planned closing on July 10.
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Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by Dave Clark